SIGMUND FREUD

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) Founder of psychoanalysis and arguably the most influential theorist of mind of the 20th century.

Whether we know it or not, we are all of us Freudians! His discoveries and writings, his psychodynamic view of mind has been taken up at so many levels of our culture that it is the bedrock of our understanding of ourselves – our lives, our loves, our creative productions and our symptoms – in short our relations with ourselves, the world, and others.

As author, Freud is very present in his writings, sometimes openly, sometimes covertly, not driven by an attempt to treatise on ‘mental illness’ but rather by the project of de-medicalising psychopathology as human suffering. In this he revealed the unconscious underpinnings of the psychopathology of everyday life and the discontent inherent to civilisation, as running roughly along the same lines as the problematic symptoms which had up to then been seen only as illnesses. There is a dis-ease inherent to our social being and it sometimes registers in symptoms. His hope was to provide a new general psychology, which both ‘normalised’ the psychopathologies and ‘psychopathologised’ what passes for normality.

JACQUES LACAN

So, who was Freud? Born Sigismund Schlomo Freud on 6th May 1856 into a Jewish family in the city of Freiburg in what is known today as the Czech Republic, to Jakob Freud and Amalia Nathansohn. Sigmund, the apple of his youthful mother’s eye, seems to have had a very happy early life in the bosom of this large and loving family. In fact, in German ‘Freud’ means ‘Joy’. When he was four years old the family moved to Vienna to enjoy the benefits of that city’s revocation of laws discriminating against Jews. Freud remained there throughout the best part of his life, only leaving with great reluctance in 1938 when the spectre of Nazism had rendered the city dangerous to Jews. He and his family only managed to escape through the help of influential friends. They settled in London where Freud lived out the last days of his long and fruitful life in a house at Marsfield Gardens, just off the Finchley Road. This is now the Freud Museum. You can visit there and see his practice rooms as well with that iconic psychoanalytic couch.

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